Gentrification debate – blogs follow the Starbucks?

Rogers Park mural

Gentrification has been on our minds lately, so a recent survey by aggregator Outside.in about the nation’s “bloggiest neighborhoods” piqued our curiosity. A Chicago area labeled “Rogers Park / North Howard” ranked 5th, behind Clinton Hill, Brooklyn; Shaw, DC; downtown LA and Newton, Mass on the survey’s list of the most blogged neighborhoods.

When explaining Rogers Park’s popularity among bloggers, the folks at Outside.in wrote, “Located in one of the last remaining pockets of poverty in Chicago’s North Side, it’s home to a culturally diverse group of residents that have very mixed feelings about the rapid gentrification.” It explains that the survey results are based on factors such as total number of posts, bloggers and comments, and the site spotlights 24/7 North of Howard Watchers as one of the neighborhood’s prime blogs.

The New York Times’ Business Section recently published a piece on the results, saying, “First come the renovated condominiums, the latte bars and the expensive baby strollers. Next, apparently, come the bloggers.”

There is a Starbucks in Rogers Park these days and thousands of apartments have converted to condos in recent years. We haven’t noticed a proliferation of expensive baby strollers, however, and walking down Morse, Howard, Sheridan, Glenwood or any number of main streets, this doesn’t feel to us like a neighborhood “rapidly gentrifying,” or gentrifying at all.

The rate of homeownership has increased and condominium prices have risen sharply during the last decade, but they’re still well below the citywide median – despite the fact that this is a lakefront neighborhood with good transportation and a major university on the edge of a fairly upscale suburb.

The biggest factor determining Rogers Park’s future might be the housing stock, which is dominated by multi-unit buildings. Can a Chicago neighborhood this far from downtown gentrify without a greater number of detached single-family houses in the mix? Sure, there have been lots of conversions, but the buyers of these condos don’t tend to stay put very long. And while many bad landlords have been forced to clean up their act in RP, many more still operate substandard buildings that bring the neighborhood down.

But, hey, we don’t live there. If you do and you have a different take, click on “Comments” below. If you want to browse some of the blogs that made Rogers Park famous before commenting, check out Morse Hell Hole, 24/7 North of Howard Watchers, Rogers Park Bench, the North Howard Neighbors Association, Chicago Two-Flat and The Living Room in Rogers Park.

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